Spatterdock, also known as cow lily and pond lily, is an aquatic plant found in freshwater ponds and other slow-moving bodies of water across parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. The scientific name of the plant is Nuphar lutea. It is part of the family Nymphaeaceae, which is composed of other water lilies.
The leaves of the spatterdock plant are most often seen floating on the surface of the water or growing several inches above the water on long, sturdy stems. Some leaves may also be visible beneath the surface of the water. The roots of the plant are burrowed into the bottom of the pond or lake.
The plant's heart-shaped leaves can grow up to nearly 1.5 feet (40 cm) in width. Spatterdock produces a yellow flower above the water. The flower is at the ends of a thick stem that may be as long as 6 feet (1.8 m). Each plant produces a single flower. The flowers bloom from late spring to early autumn.
The strong odor of the flowers attracts bees and beetles that provide pollination. Reproduction is from a seed, found in a pod in the flower’s center. The plant begins growing beneath the water’s surface in early spring, emerging from the rhizome in which it survived the winter.
Spatterdock has been used as a food source in some cultures. The roots have served as an ingredient in soups and have been made into flour. Some Native American cultures gathered the seeds for preparations similar to popcorn.
Dyes have been developed from the roots and leaves of the plant. For medicinal purposes, the plant has been used to treat various ailments, including pain. More recently, it is gathered for cultivation in aquariums.
Some gardeners are cultivating spatterdock in water gardens. Growing the plant requires between 1 and 5 feet (0.3 to 1.5 meters) of water. The growing site must also have a muddy bottom that can accommodate the plant’s roots.
Spatterdock should be grown in water that is free of strong currents or movements. The plant will grow best in clear water and can quickly spread under the right conditions. This water lily will need at least partial sunlight to flower.
In addition to its benefits to humans, spatterdock is valuable to wildlife. The plant provides food and shade for many different aquatic species. Mammals such as deer and beavers may also feed on the plant.